Author: Audrey Driscoll

Writer, gardener, lapsed cataloguer, and author of the Herbert West Series.

Coloured foliage of Brunnera "Looking Glass," Pulmonaria, and grass Milium effusum "Aureum"

Green Isn’t the Only Colour

Plants are green. Everyone knows that. But green isn’t a single colour; there are a million shades of green. Throw in texture and an all-green planting is anything but monotone.

But many plants have leaves in colours besides or other than green. Combinations of white and green, for example. Or colours such as orange, red, purple, or even blue. Blue leaves–imagine that!

Here are some plants from my garden with colour variations.

Green and white Hosta
Green and white variegated hosta
Green and white ornamental grass
Green and white grass
Japanese Painted Fern (Athyrium niponicum
Japanese painted fern
Heuchera "Green Spice"
Heuchera “Green Spice.” Note the similar colours to the fern!
Heuchera "Key Lime Pie"
Heuchera “Key Lime Pie”
Heuchera "Timeless Orange" with grey foliage in the background
Heuchera “Timeless Orange” and grey leaved plants
Brunnera "Looking Glass"
Brunnera “Looking Glass”

The last one is my favourite. Cerinthe “Pride of Gibraltar” starts out with leaves of pale green, but as the flower buds develop, the leaves close to them turn a bronzy purple, and then a pure blue. Some are almost navy blue. The flowers are those little purple tubes sticking out at the ends.

Cerinthe Pride of Gibraltar close-up, blue leaves
Cerinthe "Pride of Gibraltar"
manuscript and notebook She Who Comes Forth work in progress

The Work Progresses

You would think by now it would be easy. After all, I’ve written and published five novels and a bunch of short stories. I have idea notes, planning notes, things-to-fix-in-the-rewrite notes, and problem-solving notes.

But writing the first draft is still hard. In fact, some days it’s a real struggle. And yet, it lurches forward.

The work in progress is a sequel, which complicates things. It means I have to know everything each character knows about all kinds of things. Who knows what? Who lied to whom? It’s amazing how many details I’ve forgotten from the previous book, even though I wrote it.

Some characters from the first book have changed quite a bit. I need to account for those changes–plausibly, and in a way that contributes to the plot.

It will be bad news if something I think is crucial for the sequel doesn’t line up with, or even contradicts, something important in the first book. (A good argument for writing both books before publishing the first one.)

Then there’s First Draft Daily Anxiety Syndrome. I’ve managed to keep up with the page a day resolution I made back in December, but knowing I have to put in the required time every day to crank out the next page or two can be a cloud on my horizon as I emerge gummy-eyed from sleep.

Strange thing, though: sitting down and picking up the pen has an almost magical effect. With only the vaguest idea of what is going to happen next, I start to write, and a scene unfolds, complete with details and nuances. (Whether it will stand the test of the rewrite is another issue.)

I’m 85% through the first draft and on schedule to finish it by the end of June. The trouble is, now that daylight arrives early and lingers late, the garden exercises its own allure. I may have to shift my writing sessions from first thing in the morning to what I call Glare Time, the hours between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., when the light is harsh and bright and the garden is devoid of magic.

Never mind–at least now I can finally see the day I’ll get this one off the ground!

hot air balloon on ground rainbow colours
Image from Pixabay

Fellow writers, I’m sure many of you have WIPs under way. What works for you? What gives you fits? Share your WIP woes and wins.

Tomato plants and tomato cages late May

Growing Tomatoes, Part 2

Once frost is out of the question and night temperatures don’t fall much below 10C (50F), it’s safe to put the young tomato plants into their permanent spots. In my case, that’s the biggest plastic pots I can get my hands on–the kind nurseries use for young trees and larger shrubs. This year I have nine pots.

Tomato plants in big pots mid May
Three of the nine

A week or two before transplant day, I prepare a soil mix that consists of the contents of last year’s tomato pots and a generous helping of fresh compost plus bagged manure. I also add lime, because tomatoes prefer a soil with a pH close to neutral, and mine is somewhat acid. Too acid a soil leads to a calcium deficiency which produces blossom end rot.

Tomato plant in big pot mid May

My plants are of the indeterminate type, which means they keep growing indefinitely, unlike the determinate or bush types. The plants were already starting to grow tiny new shoots in the leaf axils when I planted them. I remove those. Left alone, they would turn into additional stems. It makes no sense to let potted tomatoes grow extra stems, but three stems per plant may be manageable in plants grown in the ground.

Tomato plants in big pots mid May

In any case, the plants will need to be supported as they grow, which means cages or stakes. Cages are preferable for my pot-grown tomatoes, since the pots sit on the asphalt driveway. Plants in the ground may be staked–3 or 4 stout stakes per plant with twine wrapped around them. In my experience, mature plants that have set fruit always get unwieldy and need extra supports for their last month or so.

Tomato plants and tomato cages late May

But that’s in the future for these plants. For the next few weeks, all I have to do is supply water, remove those unwanted leaf axil shoots, and wait for the plants to produce flowers.

Tomato plants and tomato cages late May
Tomato plants and tomato cages late May

Laburnum and Erysimum "Bowles Mauve"

Bigger Pictures

My garden photos are often closeups of individual plants or groups of plants. So I thought it was time to post some wider views, in the form of a tour. The garden is at its best right now (early May), when it’s still lush and green.

Laburnum and Erysimum "Bowles Mauve"
A nice conjunction of bloom next to the driveway–laburnum tree and wallflower (Erysimum) “Bowles Mauve”
Front walk, perennial bed, lawn, and magnolia
Up the front walk… Perennials on the left, magnolia on the right
Perennial bed to west of front walk
Perennials on the left (west) side of the walk
Perennial bed on west side of house, looking north
Along the west side of the house. More perennials and the lilac in full bloom
Back garden
The back garden. The part to the right of the path used to be a vegetable patch, but is now a mixture of herbs, refugee plants, and volunteers. The pond area is behind the trellis and the shed is in the right hand corner, hidden by the apple tree.
Garden pond
The pond is at the end of the main path in the back garden
Back garden looking toward shed from pond
Looking east over the pond toward the shed. The ladder is there because of work on the shed’s roof, but I issued a stop-work order because chickadees are nesting in the birdhouse under the eaves.
Back garden, looking west to pond bench
Looking west from the shed to the cedar stump bench by the pond, which is hidden by the ferns
Perennial bed on west side of house, looking south
Leaving via the west side path
Heuchera "Key Lime Pie"
Heuchera “Key Lime Pie” and potted hellebores wave goodbye.

I hope you enjoyed the tour!

New rules

For all that I love arguing with rules for writers, here are some worthy suggestions from author Kevin Brennan, along with others from artist Richard Diebenkorn.

WHAT THE HELL

Artist Richard Diebenkorn had some rules about the way he should approach his work. I can’t remember where I got these, but I was inspired enough to copy and paste them at the time. I was also inspired enough to come up with a few of my own. When the going gets tough, it’s always good to have some reliable aphorisms you can fall back on.

Diebenkorn’s: 

1. Attempt what is not certain. Certainty may or may not come later. It may then be a valuable delusion.

2. The pretty, initial position which falls short of completeness is not to be valued—except as a stimulus for further moves.

3. DO search.

4. Use and respond to the initial fresh qualities but consider them absolutely expendable.

5. Don’t “discover” a subject—of any kind.

6. Somehow don’t be bored but if you must, use it in action. Use its destructive potential.

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